Monday, April 28, 2003

The idiot in front of me at the Ministry concert thought he was being really cool by pulling out his cell phone, presumably dialing up a friend and holding his cell phone in the air pointed towards the stage. Phones in general and cell phones well inside buildings are not known for their high fidelity sound transmission. I'm sure his buddy was thrilled to hear a bunch of indecipherable noise.

Here are some guidelines to keep in mind for cell phones and concerts.
  1. At most concerts, it is too loud for you to hear the person you're calling or the recipient of the call to hear you.
  2. If it is quiet enough for you to hear each other, then you are so loud that you are distracting the people trying to listen to the concert and you are disrupting the performance.
If either case, the solution is simple. Leave you cell phone off at concerts. If you have to make a call, go to the back of the venue, as far from the performance and attentive audience as possible. If you and your calls are so important, then you should have a silent vibrate mode on your phone. If it's really a matter of life of death, then you shouldn't be at the concert but should stay at home or your office where you can be more reached more reliably.

Sunday, April 27, 2003

Some fans are suing Creed for putting on a bad concert. Caveat emptor. If they wanted a good concert, why did they pay to see Creed?

Saturday, April 26, 2003

Concert Recommendation: Mike Doughty and Dan Wilson

There are pluses and minuses to Doughty touring solo. The old Soul Coughing songs miss something without Sebastian Steinberg's supple funk on upright bass, M'ark de Gli Antoni's unexpected samples or Doughty's shouting, "Yuval Gabay!" since the drummer isn't present. On the other hand, the spareness of just Doughty and his guitar makes it easier to decipher his absurdist lyrics. Also, he has always provided great between-song banter.

Opener Dan Wilson is worth catching in his own right. He has an angelic voice and has written some beautifully catchy songs with both Trip Shakespeare and Semisonic. Don't dismiss him as a one-hit wonder for "Closing Time."

Mike Doughty and Dan Wilson play Schuba's, 3159 N. Southport Ave., Chicago, IL, 773.525.2508, at 8 p.m. on Sunday, April 27 and 7 p.m. on Monday, April 28.

Wednesday, April 23, 2003

Concert Review: Ministry, Wednesday, April 22, The Vic

Asked in The Wild One what he was rebelling against, Marlon Brando replied "Whaddya got?" The same could be said of Al Jourgensen. He rebelled against the major label machinery that tried to turn him into Chicago's answer to British synth pop, complete with fake English accent. He rebelled against the Reagan/Bush era. Some of the results were glorious: Ministry's transformation to create loud, snarling, aggressive and inventive music. Okay, there was also that drug abuse. When I told several people about going to see Ministry, they shared the response, "They're still around?!" But with another Bush in the White House and another war with Iraq, Ministry has something to rebel against. Fortunately, now they're doing it just with the music, as Al has reportedly kicked drugs.

In their show at the Vic, Ministry created an impressive din. They had a pair of drummers and up to three guitars going at once. Songs like "N.W.O." showed that Limp Bizkit and their nu-metal ilk are petty whiners and wusses in comparison. On the other hand, large chunks of the show were just about the din without enough shape to the songs. One doesn't expect any open space in a Ministry composition, but at least "Stigmata" was punctuated with a distinctive guitar riff.

Paul Barker is still thin enough to go shirtless. On the other hand, with his added girth and impish dancing, Al looked like Silent Bob. He also looked joyous to be performing. When Chris Connelly joined them on stage to take over vocals, Al gave him several heartfelt hugs and used the break to repeatedly stage dive. Ministry make me proud to live in Chicago.

Tuesday, April 22, 2003

Madonna has a new album out today. To put it another way, today is the release date for a project designed by Madonna to maintain her fame, which really is the ultimate purpose of any of her "artistic" endeavors.

She's been around long enough that the sheer longevity of her career has given her artistic credence.  But most critics still fall for the style and ignore the shortage of substance. The woman didn't make a video in which she tossed a live hand grenade at a George W. Bush look-alike as any sort of political statement; she did it precisely so it would generate media attention. I guess she couldn't time another pregnancy to deliver a child near a release date the way she did with her first kid and Evita or the second one and Music. The music on her albums is barely memorable compared to her outrageous acts to promote them.

Monday, April 21, 2003

Since I was recently listening to one of these songs, I provide this High Fidelity-inspired list of:

Top 5 Songs to Listen to When Unexpectedly Laid Off
  1. "Mr. Suit," New Bomb Turks. Their cover version is much more visceral than Wire's detached original.
  2. "Hate The Police," Mudhoney
  3. "You're Gonna Miss Me," 13th Floor Elevators
  4. "Head Like a Hole," Nine Inch Nails. Really an all-purpose song about karmic vengeance.
  5. "Birth School Work Death," The Godfathers
And Song 5.5, for after the initial shock has worn off and you've move on to bitter sarcasm: "Rainy Day Parade," Jill Sobule.

Thursday, April 17, 2003

Concert Review: The Mooney Suzuki, The Realistics, Tuesday, April 15, Metro

The Mooney Suzuki may be the hardest working band in America. This was their third time through Chicago in less than a year. I generally scoff at bands that play Simon Says in encouraging the audience to clap along, but their drummer is so propulsive that it's impossible to ignore the directive. They were infectiously energetic. The set ended with the rhythm section carrying the guitarists on their shoulders through the crowd while they continued to play. It's refreshing to see a band earn their fans one at a time through such close contact with the audience rather than just spending shitloads of money for commercial radio airplay and image consultants to make them MTV-ready.

Speaking of MTV, I hadn't heard that they ran a contest to be the Mooney Suzuki's roadie, but the apparent winner was there. After setting up the stage, he changed out of his black Coney Island High t-shirt into band uniform, plain black button-down shirt, for the set. Besides the typical roadie job of scrambling around stage keeping microphones upright and wires untangled, he was also the band's biggest cheerleader. I have never seen a roadie so happy to have his perch at the side of the stage.

The Realistics also opened for the Mooney Suzuki last October. Had they opened for a less phenomenal live act, they would have been more memorable. It was like 1979 all over again, pulling in bits of Elvis Costello & the Attractions (although the keyboard player is less shpilkesy than Steve Nieve), the Cars and the Knack. Plus, they had good footwear.

Wednesday, April 16, 2003

A few Passsovers back, a Jewish publicist I've worked with found herself in London on tour with Napalm Death. They held a seder backstage before the show. She said it was quite the experience teaching Napalm Death to sing "Dayenu." I can only imagine what the contract rider looked like: beer, whiskey, beer, roasted lamb shank bone, beer, etc.

Tuesday, April 15, 2003

Concert Recommendation: Jurassic 5, Wednesday Apr. 16, House of Blues

Some call Jurassic 5 old school hip hop because they aren't gangsta rappers, which is ironic since gangsta is more than a decade old. They also aren't about the bling-bling. Rather, their music is more musical and their lyrics more verbosely eloquent than what's popular now, which might explain why "What's Golden" didn't explode despite being so damn catchy.

Jurassic 5 play the House of Blues, 329 N. Dearborn, Chicago, IL 60610, 312.923.2000 at 9 p.m., Wednesday April 16.

Monday, April 14, 2003

Concert Recommendation: The Mooney Suzuki, Tuesday Apr. 15, Metro

Like the Police, no one really sounds like the Who because they were too intense a melding of individual talents. The Mooney Suzuki sound more like the MC5, but at least they have some of the trappings of the Who: windmilling on guitar, skinny guy with a good rock star-size nose, power chords lifted from "I Can See for Miles." And at this point, the Mooney Suzuki, with no deceased members, puts on a better show than the Who.

The Mooney Suzuki play the Metro, 3730 N. Clark, Chicago, at 7 p.m., Tuesday April 15 with the Realistics, Loudermilk and Koufax.

Thursday, April 10, 2003

Just released last week was From the Attic, the debut from Damone. The Boston-area band sounds like a young Letters to Cleo. They sound young because their lead singer is still in high school. They may sound like Letters to Cleo because From the Attic was mixed by Tom Lord-Alge, who handled similar duties to LTC. One can only hope Damone share LTC's pleasant demeanor; Kay Hanley and Michael Eisenstein were among the friendliest musicians I've ever interviewed.

Monday, April 07, 2003

Although the Metro billed them as "Ceasars," the band spelled their name on the their bass drum as "Cæsars," and their U.S. label spells it "Caesars." Whatever you want to call the band formerly known as Twelve Caesars, they are finally releasing their second U.S. album. 39 Minutes of Bliss (In An Otherwise Meaningless World) comes out April 22 on Astralwerks. And I can only guess that they changed their name because clubs feared they couldn't fit them all on stage; Ben Folds Five is still a manageable number of musicians, and 10,000 Maniacs is clearly an overstatement. But there are only five Caesars.